Overview of Comprehensive Education Plan 2014-2015

 

South Portland School District

Overview of Comprehensive Education Plan

August 2014

 

Through a year long strategic planning process involving students, staff and the community, a new vision and beliefs were developed for the South Portland Schools.   This vision which was adopted by the Board of Education in June 2013 serves as the basis for the District Comprehensive Education Plan.  The mission of the district, “Enriching Lives through Quality Learning for All” is grounded in the following beliefs:

·      We ensure that all learners meet or exceed rigorous content standards while developing the skills and habits of mind necessary for future success.

·      Our methods of instruction inspire and challenge learners to grow and prepare themselves for a lifetime of educational, career and personal fulfillment.

·      Every staff member demonstrates a commitment to creating a fulfilling school experience for all learners.

·      The schools and community share a responsibility for creating and maintaining a rich and expansive environment for student learning.

 

Mission and Goals:

 

To support our work toward the beliefs highlighted above, we continue to reflect on our mission and goals each year.  The mission of the South Portland School Department continues to be Enriching lives through quality learning for all.”  To enact this mission, our goal continues to be Improving Student Achievement.  Serving as a cornerstone for our work toward Improving Student Achievement are the principles of Relationships, Relevance and Rigor. 

Relationships – Strong learning relationships are essential to improving student achievement.  We believe students are more likely to make a personal commitment to engage in their own learning when they know that teachers, parents and other students care about them.  It is our aim to create a learning environment that supports the core values of respect, compassion, responsibility, honesty, fairness and courage.  With a firm grounding in relationships, relevance and rigor can develop naturally.

Relevance – Relevance refers to learning in which students apply core knowledge, concepts, or skills to real-world situations.  Relevant learning is interdisciplinary and contextual and realized through authentic problems, tasks, simulations, service learning, connecting concepts to current issues and teaching others.  With a strong foundation in relationships and relevance, students are ready for rigorous learning

Rigor – Academic rigor occurs when students demonstrate a thorough in-depth mastery of challenging tasks through reflective thought, analysis, problem solving, evaluation, or creativity.  In identifying rigor it is important to remember it is the quality of the thinking involved in the task, not the quantity. 

We have identified four strategies for achieving our goals. 

Teaching – We will continue to focus on identifying and developing “Best Instructional Practices” with all staff.  By developing and support a Project Based Learning environment K-12, we will provide students an opportunity to apply their learning to real world situations.  All staff will utilize a Backwards Design instructional planning model to ensure instruction support essential learning targets.  All staff will be working to develop virtual and/or site based pathways toward proficiency-based graduation standards

Learning – Staff will ensure all curricula are aligned with the Parameters of Essential Instruction (Learning Results) and District Essential Learning Targets.  Curriculum Maps and Backwards Design Planning documents will be compiled for all areas. Teachers will also engage in discussing student work associated with our common assessments as a vehicle for informing instruction.  Implementation of proficiency based grading will expand this year with the Fifth - Eight Grade teachers reporting proficiency in content as well as Habits of Work.  All staff will work to develop a leveled K-12 Response to Intervention system to support student achievement, attendance and behavior.

Schools – We will continue to focus on the development of Responsive Classroom strategies throughout the elementary schools and Restorative Justice practices in the Middle Schools and High School. The teacher professional growth and evaluation system will be aligned to connect student achievement to teacher growth and piloted with all Year 1 staff..

Community – A focus of our work is to expand opportunities for meaningful connections between students and community members through internships, mentoring, and community integration both inside and outside of the walls of the schools.  We will provide consistent on-going communication with the community to highlight school activities.

South Portland Schools are guided by a commitment to ongoing improvement and research-based decision making.  Through the process of examining data to review our progress toward goals, we will determine cause and effect, examine pertinent research, and make the revisions we need to improve that progress.  To ensure a process for school improvement that is thoughtful and sustainable rather than fad-driven and temporary, staff members answer the following questions when planning a change:

 

  • What is the problem that needs to be solved?
  • How and by whom will the decision be made regarding whether on not to undertake the change?
  • What is the proposed solution? (What research supports the proposed solution?)
  • What are the anticipated results of the change?
  • How will we evaluate the success of the change?
  • Do we have the capacity to do the work?
  • Who are the stakeholders and how are they involved in the process?


Our four beliefs serve as the framework for the District Comprehensive Education Plan. Throughout the district, grade span school improvement plans guide the day-to-day work toward realizing our goals and ongoing data examination is the process by which we measure our achievement of the goals.

Belief:  We ensure all learners will meet or exceed rigorous content standards while developing the skills and habits of mind necessary for future success.

The Maine Learning Results/Common Core Standards, District’s Essential Learning Targets and the State’s requirements to Proficiency Based Graduation standards support this belief.  The district New England Comprehensive Assessment Program (NECAP) scores have shown that we continue to struggle in closing the achievement gap for students of low socio-economic status, LEP students and Special Education students with IEPs.  In order to lessen this achievement gap, we need to provide additional opportunities for at risk students to receive academic support.  At the same time, we need to ensure that no student will be required to relearn already mastered material; each student needs to be challenged at her/his highest level.  This requires a commitment to provide diverse and equitable opportunities for our 3,100 students. 

Current evidence of our commitment to equity of opportunity for our students can be found:

 

·       in the district’s commitment to sustain the support of teacher integrators specializing in literacy and math to build capacity in teachers to help them meet the needs of the continuum of learners.

·       in the district’s support of Early Childhood development through the expansion of Preschool programming for 4-year olds.

·       in the commitment of the Academically Gifted program to screen all second, fifth, and eighth grade students in order to be sure that all students have the same opportunity for their giftedness to be identified and addressed.

·      in the district’s commitment to provide a strong level of support for students who are English Language learners.

·      in the district’s support of teaming ninth grade students to personalize learning and ensure that all students have access to a rigorous curriculum as they transition to high school.

·      in the increased opportunities for all high school students to access college classes, the increased number of Advanced Placement classes and in the work being done to raise aspirations through whole class administration of the PSAT and sophomore class college visits.

·      in the movement toward Proficiency Based Graduation Standards.

 

On-going plans to further support this belief:

Throughout the district close attention is paid to improving student achievement. Staff and administrators at each level are focused on school reform targeting the three R’s of relationships, relevance and rigor.

 

The high school has been focused on school reform through the Melmac Grant, which focuses on building student aspirations and developing early college opportunities.  The focus of this work is to prepare all graduates for college or further study.  Three goals drive the on-going reform at South Portland High School:

 

        All students will experience and contribute to the school community that is equitable and respectful of self, others, ideas, property and the environment.

        All students will have personalized relevant educational experiences that will be connected to their lives and prepare them for post secondary life and learning.

        All students will succeed in rigorous classes, aligned with state standards, which will academically prepare them for post-secondary learning and workplace opportunities.

 

The two middle schools, Mahoney Middle School and Memorial Middle School, have been working together over the past seven years to align beliefs, structures and practices toward a shared middle school vision.  The work has been centered on developing Rigor, Relevance and Relationships through:

 

  •    Establishing and delivering guaranteed curriculum across content areas and grade levels
  •     Examining instructional practices, implementing practices that engage students as active participants.
  •  Identifying and intervening effectively when students are not meeting academic benchmarks.
  •   Increasing students’ sense of responsibility for their learning
  •  Recognizing and understanding the needs of diverse learners to provide personalized, relevant educational experiences for all students

-        Developing capacity for understanding students and their experiences

-        Identifying and implementing practices that engage students in their learning and that cultivate a culture of respect

-        Cultivate organizational structures that support meaningful relationships and learning.

 

The five elementary schools are committed to improving student achievement by engaging our 21st century learners in rigorous, relevant learning. To this end, our elementary schools have identified core academic standards in all curricula, as well as personal skill development areas.  Developing relationships, student aspirations and community involvement are goal areas for targeting student engagement at the elementary level. Additionally, our elementary schools are providing flexible groupings which allow students to move in and out of supportive services as needed.   Much attention has been given to providing supports for students identified as being “at risk” of not being successful in school.  These supports coupled with the identified essential learning targets at each grade level in each content area help to determine individual student needs.

 

At all levels, instructional support staff are working closely with general education staff to provide the support that enables all students to access our rigorous curriculum.  The district is committed to providing professional development to help teachers differentiate curriculum, instruction and assessment in support of this work.  Title IIA funds will continue to support this effort.  Additionally, the district has targeted resources toward providing additional staff to support teachers and students.

 

The two Intervention Strategist positions at the middle schools and the Literacy Integrator position at the high school have been aimed toward supporting teachers in developing literacy strategies and differentiating the curriculum to meet multiple student needs.  Additionally, the high school and middle schools work closely to create a seamless transition for eighth grade students, to identify at risk students early and to provide programming that will keep them engaged in school.  At the same time, South Portland Schools are committed more than ever to provide a rigorous program, with challenging opportunities for all.  A Transition Academy provides additional support for eighth grade students transitioning to ninth grade.

 

At the elementary schools the Teachers of the Academically Gifted, the Library/Media Strategists and the Elementary Literacy Specialist work closely with classroom teachers to differentiate curriculum and instruction to meet the variety of needs present in our classrooms.

 

Title IA funding from No Child Left Behind supports supplemental services for children who need additional instruction because of the gaps in their education or their backgrounds.   We continue to focus on K-2 literacy, providing a literacy teacher in each elementary school.  In addition to the seven locally funded ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Teachers and three educational technicians, South Portland Schools receive Title III funding to support children for whom English is not the first language spoken at home.  That support focuses on professional development of both the ESOL teachers and the regular classroom teachers, and provides additional curriculum materials as well.

 

 

Belief:  Our methods of instruction will inspire and challenge learners to grow and prepare themselves for a lifetime of educational, career and personal fulfillment.

 

Understanding that quality professional development is critical to operationalizing this belief, South Portland is committed to implementing Maine’s Quality Standards for Training and Development to include continuous improvement, focus on results, organizational alignment, use of research data, and participation.

 

The district is committed to a culture of Professional Learning Communities, which research supports as the most successful way to leverage improvements in instruction and student achievement.  The Professional Learning Leadership Team, comprised of teacher leaders and administration, plan the use of professional development times to focus on student work and data in order to improve instruction and student achievement.  The district’s support of the Measures of Academic Progress assessment enables teachers to analyze data in a timely manner and closely watch growth over time.  Because time is always limited, the schedule for elementary specialists is designed to provide common time for grade level teachers in each building.  Middle school and high school teachers have a team preparation period in addition to their regular preparation period and the discussions during this time focus on looking at data and determining actions to improve student achievement.

 

To support teacher learning about best practices in order to bring more students to meet the standards of the Learning Results, the district will also provide courses to enhance teachers’ understanding of literacy across the content areas.  Title IIA of our No Child Left Behind plan will support professional development in the areas of reading across the content areas, information literacy and math.

 

Throughout the district emphasis is put on learners constructing their own learning through hands-on, minds-on learning.  Kaler has undergone a renewal process and is redefining as the Kaler Community School of Inquiry and Exploration.  As such, they offer all students in South Portland an interdisciplinary approach to educating the whole child through rigorous, relevant project based learning.  The awarding of a School Improvement Grant to Kaler School will provide necessary resources and training over the next three years to support teachers and students in increasing student achievement.

 

The middle school staff are infusing inquiry based problem solving into middle school instruction.  The shift away from related arts offerings of Tech. Ed. and Home Ec. to Inquiry-Based STEM instruction challenges students to use the 21st Century Skills of; Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, and Communication and Collaboration.

 

At the High School the opportunity to explore learning inside the classroom, on-line and in the community are supported through various teaching and learning configurations.  Virtual High School, Blended on-line/in-school classes and Internships all allow students to grow academically, socially and emotionally as they analyze and solve problems, build interpersonal skills, and develop an understanding of their place in a global community.

 

 

Belief:  Every staff member must demonstrate a commitment to creating a fulfilling school experience for all learners.

 

Throughout the district relationships are seen as the cornerstone for engagement, and grow out of an excitement for learning and working together.  To support these relationships, staff and students are engaged in a variety of structures for developing classroom cultures such as Responsive Classroom, Restorative Justice, Kieve, Connections and the SPHS Honor Code.

 

Additionally the teacher professional growth and evaluation system is grounded in the belief that professional growth is continuous.  Therefore, all staff continually reflects on their craft and refines their practices to positively impact student achievement.  Throughout this process all staff members are engaged in a variety of learning activities that support professional growth and effectiveness.

 

 

Belief:  The schools and the community share a responsibility for creating and maintaining a rich and expansive environment for student learning.

 

The South Portland community has demonstrated its willingness to financially support schooling by supporting a successful referendum designed to renovate or reconstruct South Portland High School.  The Board appointed Secondary Schools Facilities Committee will reconvene to develop a plan for the renovation/consolidation of our two middle schools.

 

School Board policies, such as class size, and Personnel Policy Goals, reflect the community’s commitment to quality education.  The Collective Bargaining Agreement offers financial incentives for teachers who continue their education, and who remain in the system.  Lifelong learning is also encouraged through course reimbursement and in-district courses offered by South Portland staff. 

 

The school district’s volunteer coordinator oversees a large volunteer program with more than800 volunteers K-12.  The City’s librarians work closely with the school district’s library coordinator to plan joint activities for the benefit of students, and parents at the elementary schools provide an array of wonderful enrichment opportunities for students.  Community members sit on curriculum and building committees, on hiring committees and on the design and advisory teams for the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. 

 

Additionally as the community embraces its role in providing opportunities for learning outside the walls of our schools, our students engage in meaningful opportunities to shape the future of their community through internships, mentoring programs and real world application of learning.

 

In closing, our students live in a world that is constantly changing; therefore we are preparing them for a future we can not even imagine.  As we look toward this future, the Comprehensive Education Plan guides school improvement efforts throughout the district.  Relationships, Relevance and Rigor are the cornerstones of improving student learning and “Enriching Lives Through Quality Learning for All.”

 

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